Reopening Anxiety: 3 Tips for Going Back to Work and Maintaining Sobriety

We are starting a big reentry to normal life and soon, office workers will be returning to work in larger numbers. At this juncture, people are experiencing mixed emotions. Amongst happiness and relief, there is significant apprehension, called “reopening anxiety.” Actually having to leave home and return to an office setting, hybrid schedule or not, seems daunting after 15 months of pandemic living. For the 23 million Americans in recovery and those just starting their sobriety, reopening anxiety can be significant. Executive Recovery Coach, Beth Siegert, CPC, CPRC, ACC, CFAA of Siegert & Associates, provides tips on how to navigate going back to work and maintaining sobriety.

Tip 1: Lower Your Anxiety by Adjusting Ahead of Time

“People in recovery are very resourceful and strong. To make things easier on you and your family, make plans and adjust to a new way of life ahead of time,” Siegert says. One common area of adjustment is sleep. Sleep schedules have changed dramatically due to the lack of a commute and different work hours. Adequate rest is crucial as a person works daily to maintain their sobriety. Siegert advises, “Be gentle with yourself and start new habits ahead of time. To handle the multi-hour shift in daily life, start a few weeks prior to your first day and re-work your sleep schedule 15 minutes until you completely adjust to the new bedtime and wake-up routine.” Avoiding caffeine or even exercise too late in the evenings will also assist in adjusting sleep patterns and can help avoid the temptation to use sleep aids of any kind.

As for support groups or therapy, resume timing those important appointments to dovetail into your work schedule. “This is where employers can really assist their staff. Human Resources departments are starting recovery support groups or are supporting people in recovery as a way to enhance work life. This forward-thinking way of looking at recovery speaks wonders to staff members working daily on maintaining their sobriety. It can also be highly attractive to new recruits,” she says.

Tip 2: Expect Some Changes

“Realize that the atmosphere will likely be different,” Siegert points out. The office will likely look different due to staff changes, and due to COVID-19 deep cleaning procedures, office furniture may be arranged differently as well as elbow bumps instead of handshakes, just to name a few. 

It is reasonable to expect that some colleagues have changed because their life circumstances are now very different. Co-workers may have lost people or have family members who have lingering symptoms. “I would walk into the office being as open to being empathetic to the people you work with. Everyone has had a different experience,” Siegert advises.

Siegert suggests that if a company does not issue communications, to contact Human Resources or a supervisor and ask about what to expect in terms of logistical changes (will the cafeteria be open?) and if you are to bring your own items (wipes or an individual coffee maker, for example) to the office. 

Avoiding embarrassment, feelings of confusion, and simply being aware that there might be times of awkwardness during the day will help those in recovery stay the course during this time of readjustment.

Tip 3: Talk to Your Support Network

Talking to a support network greatly assists someone in recovery, especially during a trying time. To help have a successful day or to truly have one’s difficulties understood, here are the times to consider calling someone for support:

  • before leaving for work
  • upon arriving at work
  • halfway through the day
  • on the commute home 

“There is absolutely no reason for anyone to be embarrassed, no matter how much time in sobriety/recovery they have, to say, “I need some help with this.” Or better yet, “I feel ok, but I want to make sure I stay ok,” Siegert states. “These are common times during a workday when I have a check-in with some of my recovery coaching clients,” she says.

Seeking out the support of someone who understands the daily work of sobriety/recovery can make all the difference. A Recovery Coach can assist someone in recovery by providing non-judgmental support, accountability assistance, and the expertise to help manage a life free of addiction. If you or someone you know needs coaching, contact us today to schedule a free consultation. We can be reached at 877.449.6393.

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